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The power of sevens

FINISHER: Norton

OVER 103,000 fans packed into Twickenham Stadium to watch the London Sevens rugby union tournament last year and an even bigger crowd is expected at the south London venue on May 11-12.

Similar to Twenty20 cricket, or five-a-side football, sevens rugby is a variant of the 15-man format. It is split into two seven-minute halves and, a part from the action – which is arguably more frenetic than the 15-man format – a distinction associated in sevens is the carnival-like atmosphere that is created inside each venue.

Throughout the year, 24 nations compete in luxurious global destinations such as Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, Las Vegas, Nevada and Hong Kong, respectively in the International Rugby Board Sevens World Series.

Winger Dan Norton is second on England’s all-time try scoring list with 112. The 25-year-old from Bristol has been a vital member of England’s squad since debuting in 2009 and, having travelled the world several times playing sevens, Norton knows a thing or two about what to expect during a tournament.

He told the Voice of Sport: “There’s going to a lot of fast-paced rugby, a lot of high energy rugby, the weather should be nice and there’ll be a lot of people there socialising, having a good time partying. It’s going to be an amazing day out.

“It’s exciting non-stop rugby. The games are only 14 minutes long but they come thick and fast. The atmosphere is quite a party atmosphere. The people there will have a good time.”


UNITED: England huddle up before a game

In 2009 the International Olympic Committee announced that rugby sevens will be included at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio in Brazil, which is the first time rugby will be appear at the Games since 1924, and Norton has no doubt that Olympic exposure will increase the popularity of the sport.

“It gives us the opportunity to play sevens full-time,” he said. “With the change it means that the smaller nations are able to get more funding. Beforehand they wouldn’t have got as much because there wasn’t really an end goal to it. To now have the Olympics, it drives people.”

England currently lie in a disappointing 10th place in the Sevens World Series standings and, with only two tournaments remaining – Scotland on May 4-5 and the aforementioned Twickenham weekender – Norton is hopeful that England can find their best form soon, especially with the sevens World Cup taking place in Russia in June.

“Unfortunately this season hasn’t gone as well as we would’ve liked,” explained Norton. “We’re lying lower than where we would want to be. The main thing now is these next two tournaments. We want to finish strongly in the home tournament in front of our family, friends and home support. The World Cup comes around every four years so it will be pretty amazing to win that.”

The speedster often ends tournaments as England’s top try scorer but Norton humbly stated that, even though he aims to maintain a decent level of tries at every competition, he would prefer that the squad flourished instead of himself.

“I try to target about five tries. If I get round that margin in tournaments, at the end of the year I’ll be in a good position. But at the same time, even though I’m there to be scoring tries, it’s all about the team. I’d rather trade my tries for a stronger position for the team.”

*The England Rugby Sevens team is calling fans to join them on Safari and roar them on at this year’s Marriott London Sevens on May 11-12 at Twickenham. Tickets can be purchased by visiting www.rfu.com/londonsevens with weekend tickets from £45, individual days at £25 and kids £5 each day. Join the conversation at #London7s or like us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/londonsevens

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